Project Money Pit

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Once I had a plan and a few options for drive train choices, I started to watch the paper for a donor vehicle.   I had decided I would go with either Toyota 22re w/ 5 spd or a 1.6l w/auto or 5spd.  Basically I was looking for a low mileage donor car so I would not have to delve into engine work (been there done that and had enough the first time).  I saw a few Toyotas go thru the paper, none were fuel injected but I still called on them because you can convert to fuel injection.  The biggest problem was every single Toyota donor truck had 180k or more miles on the motor.   During the same time period I hadn't seen any promising Trackers or Sidekicks for under $3000. 

Another week or so went by and I started checking some of the salvage yards.   I could get a 1.6 motor/tranny/t-case combo for about $1600, but that didn't include the wiring harness or ECU that would be needed.   After talking with a friend I gave Randy at Driven Auto Parts a call.  I explained what I was doing and what I was looking for and discovered he had just bought a 96 Sidekick that had been rolled.  It had a 1.6 16V motor, auto tranny and transfer case with 60k on the odometer, perfect.  We agreed on a price and I agreed to purchase the parts.  One benefit to going this route was Randy had one of his employees remove all the parts from the donor car and labeled all the wiring harness connections.  This probably saved me 3-4 weeks of time.  Here's a list of what I ended up with:

1.6 16V motor w/3 speed automatic transmission and transfer case

ECU with complete wiring harness


Steering column

Instrument cluster

Front and rear driveshafts

Fuel tank

The seats & shifter

A bunch of misc parts.

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Here's a few shots of the motor and tranny.

So what is the plan?  Well, since I first started researching the drive train I had come across another option.  I am going to try running a divorced Samurai case behind the Sidekick powertrain.  This setup has been used successfully in the past (Randy Ellis's first RCCA buggy comes to mind) and I suspect running the automatic transmission is what makes it work reliably since there will be a lot less stress on the drive train compared to a 5 speed transmission. You can read up on how an automatic transmission works at this link, paying close attention to the torque converters role in the mechanism.

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Stock Sidekick T-case, 6.1 Samurai T-case and Automatic Transmission

Here's what the gearing will look like.  The reduction in the high range will limit the top speed but should keep the rig from feeling sluggish with the tall tires.  The gearing when both cases are in low should be really nice, 140:1 which would feel like 280:1 with a manual transmission.  Another reason I decided to go the divorced transfer case route is I will already have the Samurai case and gears.  Worst case if it doesn't work out I can sell the Samurai case and gears, get a Toyota case and have the sidekick case modified so the Toyota case bolts behind it.  The changeover would require a new crossmember but the driveshaft should not need to be changed.  If the Samurai case works I figure I'll save $5-700 in adapters.

Now that I have a power source I am still looking for a good rolling Samurai frame and tub.

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Update 6-13-02 - Since I can't actually start cutting metal yet I have been collecting pictures of cages and tubed out buggies to get inspiration for Project MP.  The above two pictures are the results of several nights work.  I am not sure how the cage will tie in with the frame yet but this will be the overall look I am going for. 

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I modeled the body for reference, not sure how much is going to stay yet.

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Update 6-26-02 -  Here's the final design.  I am sure I'll add and subtract some stuff when I start building it but this is the general shape I'd like it to take.  For the most part the new "body" is pretty close in size to the original.  Wheelbase is shown at 97", with most of that additional length gained by moving the rear axle backwards.  I am planning on making the spare tire holder removable and hinged so it can be rotated out of the way to get to the large storage chest below it or remove for local trails.  The area above the fuel tank will be for storing my cooler/bags, etc. 

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